Unbeaten Trotwood gets defensive heading into football playoffs

Unbeaten Trotwood-Madison – and any of three Midwest Athletic Conference teams – is as close to a sure thing as it gets for an area team to bring home a high school football state championship.

That was a given for the Rams (10-0) this season. They were coming off a state runner-up in 2016 and returned multiple key players. They passed their final regular-season test with Friday’s 14-7 defeat of visiting rival Wayne, the other Greater Western Ohio Conference dominant big-school program.

“This means a lot to our whole community here in Trotwood,” Rams coach Jeff Graham said. “It means a lot for our program and a lot to our peewee program. It means a lot to these kids. They commit to it. We all set our goals high.”

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Playing football after Thanksgiving has become a tradition at Trotwood. The Rams take a streak of seven straight appearances in the state semifinals into this postseason. A No. 1 seed, Trotwood likely will host Elida (8-2) of the Western Buckeye League in a Division III, Region 12 first-round game.

All playoff games will be held on Fridays through the state semis. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce first-round pairings on Sunday. The top eight teams with the most computer points in each region qualify and the higher seeds will host playoff openers.

Trotwood appears to have its best team since the 2011 Rams capped a 15-0 season by beating Avon for the D-II state title. Senior super back Ra’veion Hargrove (6,579 career yards rushing and 92 touchdowns) is among the most prolific backs in area history. Just as important, Trotwood’s defense is humming in lock-down mode.

Stuck in the GWOC American South, Trotwood must continue to play up – and beat – teams such as Wayne to secure its playoff status. Its No. 1 seed was earned with non-conference defeats of Troy (D-II, 8-2), Pickerington Central (D-I, 9-1) and Wayne (D-I, 7-3). GWOC American South members Xenia, Stebbins and West Carrollton combined for four wins. Trotwood hadn’t won a meaningful game since that Week 3 defeat of Central.

Now, the Rams are getting defensive. Wayne had three yards passing and just 118 yards of total offense.

“That’s the focus,” Graham said. “Our motto here is offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. The kids believe it and they buy into it.”

• Anyone up for an Alter/Chaminade Julienne do-over? That’s likely what will happen in another D-III, Region 12 playoff opener. Alter defeated host CJ 34-6 on Friday to clinch an outright Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North title. Alter (9-1) and CJ (7-3) likely be paired again in the first round of the postseason, although the rematch probably will be at Fairmont’s Roush Stadium.

Streaking Alter has won nine straight games following a 13-12 season-opening loss at Fairmont.

• Belmont (D-II, Region 8), Valley View (D-IV, Region 16), Greeneview (D-V, Region 20), Marion Local (D-VI, Region 24) and Trotwood all posted unbeaten regular seasons.

Belmont (9-0) had an open Week 10 date and likely will be at Sidney (9-1) in a playoff opener. Valley View (10-0) is a No. 1 seed and likely will host Waverly (7-3). Greeneview (10-0) is a No. 6 seed and is likely at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (7-2). Marion Local (10-0) likely will be overtaken by Lima Central Catholic as a No. 1 seed and should host Midwest Athletic Conference rival Fort Recovery (6-4).

• Will Homan’s record-setting 420 yards rushing and three touchdowns launched Fort Recovery into the D-VI, Region 24 playoffs and knocked St. Henry out following the Indians’ 28-16 defeat of the Redskins.

Homan’s program record bumped his regular-season rushing total to 2,282 yards, which ranks second among area running backs behind only leader Isaiah Bowser of Sidney (2,389).

• Brookville’s Bailey Wallen is the area’s third leading rusher. He went for 150 yards in Thursday’s 24-21 loss at Franklin and finished the season with 2,035 yards.

Out of playoff contention, Wallen ended his Blue Devils career among the most productive in area and Southwestern Buckeye League history. A three-year starter, he amassed 5,508 yards rushing and scored 80 touchdowns in 40 games from 2014-17.

• How important is strength of schedule and its effect on qualifying for the playoffs? Everything.

That’s why Edgewood (D-II, Region 8), Preble Shawnee (D-V, Region 20), West Liberty-Salem (D-VI, Region 24) and others throughout the state couldn’t advance despite outstanding 8-2 regular-season records.

To be fair, schedules are agreed up two-three years in advance and conference games take up the bulk of the regular season. Trotwood is the poster program for how non-conference matchups often can make or break a team’s playoff hopes.

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